Mr. Song’s California dream

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A decade ago, 68-year-old Yingchang Song left his conventional life and his home of Qingdao in northeastern China. Recently widowed and retired, Mr. Song decided to leave his two adult sons behind and start a new life in Los Angeles.

He lives in a one-bedroom apartment in Chinatown with his new wife and spends most of his days playing the erhu–a traditional Chinese instrument–for change. He can make up to $30 on a good day. Occasionally, he makes the rounds in LA’s Garment District, sharpening scissors at the factories.

Once a week, he takes U.S. citizenship classes at his local library branch, where at least a dozen other immigrant seniors come together.

If he becomes a citizen, Mr. Song will have access to public benefits for housing and food subsidies. He’ll be able to travel to China on a U.S. passport, and eventually maybe even sponsor his children to come live here.

But Mr. Song is daunted by the citizenship exam. He must learn English to take it, and that’s a big challenge for him. As he grows older in a new country, he needs to prove to himself that he’s younger than his 68 years; that he can really start over and thrive in a foreign place.